The philosopher Stanley Cavell says that we follow our words to the places where they lead us.
He’s referring, in part, to the places where the consequences and implications of words we speak, and of words spoken on our behalf, work themselves out. Going to those places means accepting responsibility for the pain these words may have occasioned and the forces they may have unleashed.
At Christmas, the Word itself becomes flesh. This Word leads us to many places – a motley, foul-smelling gathering in a stable outside Bethlehem; Egypt, where his family flees as refugees from the violence unleashed by a brutal king; Galilee of the Gentiles, a land on the periphery of Jewish life, often held in contempt by the inner circle; Jerusalem and the company of the condemned on Calvary.
Each of these places has its contemporary equivalents. The Word leads us to – better, calls to us from within – each of them, and shows us the bitter fruit borne by reckless and self-indulgent speech. We should take care with what we say and how we say it, both out loud and in our secret hearts. This holds especially true for those who speak where many listen and write what many read.